Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Day-December 25, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero,OHC
Christmas Day - Sunday,  December 25, 2016
Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC

Sweet little Jesus Boy — We [They] made you be born in a manger. Sweet little Holy Child — Didn't know who you was. Didn't know you'd come to save us, Lord; To take our sins away. Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see, We didn't know who you was. Long time ago, you was born, Born in a manger low, Sweet little Jesus Boy. The world treat you mean, Lord, We [They] treat each other mean too, But that's how things is down here — We don't know who you is. You done told us how, we is a tryin'! Master, you done show'd us how, even when you was dyin'. Just seem like we can't do right, Look how we treated you. But please, sir, forgive us, Lord — We didn't know 'twas you. Sweet little Jesus Boy, we made you be born in a manger. Sweet little Holy Child, And we didn't know who you was.
And that manger was not the romanticized little box of hay we want to think of. It was surely gross, and smelled bad. And it was probably not silent, even though I love the carol. And that young teenager must have been terrified at the event of giving birth, which was nothing at all like what giving birth is today. Christmas has changed for me. I don’t seem to be able to have Christmas without that little bit of realism. It is what keeps me reminded that Incarnation means full involvement in human history, in its process, its challenges, its successes, its disasters.
No, I’m not trying to ruin Christmas. Really. I will have a great time today. I will sing the carols loud and clear, and will eat the food, and I will rejoice in the assurance that the Light still shines in this present darkness, and it cannot be overcome. I have to live in that hope. And if Jesus were here, he would be joining us in the celebrations. He liked I good time; I know he did. They called him a glutton and a drunkard. He said that! You see, through the Incarnation, the glory of God in Jesus has become the human person fully alive. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons got it right!
In my experience, the events surrounding the presidential election season in this country, the sad realization of the ingrained, systemic racism in our culture, and all the horrific events around the world, made for an Advent Season that felt as if the Light had completely left us. I found myself often retreating to a quiet (interior and exterior) space to try to figure out who I am supposed to be in this broken world. A friend recently put this into words for me. It has something to do with liminality, and being in that space in time between things. For me, it has been a time of intense prayer, reflection and waiting for the guidance that will lead me, and by extension my community, into appropriate action. Contemplation must lead to action, and action must lead to contemplation. That’s the serious implication for anyone who calls herself or himself a Christian.  The mystery of the Incarnation reveals that divinity is one with us, and one of us. Our humanity, personal and corporate, divinized in Christ, is the instrument of God’s work in this world.
Jesus would be celebrating with us, and when we are done with all our merrymaking he calls us to get off our asses and take one step at a time into concrete action. This is when contemplation is absolutely crucial- the coming to stillness and paying careful attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We don’t have to travel to the Middle East, or Africa, or South America. We don’t have to singlehandedly create huge charitable organizations. Jesus helped the person in front of him. All we are called to do is to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, and visit the imprisoned.  We don’t have to travel far to find them. But we can only achieve this by allowing ourselves to be transformed by love that came down at Christmas, and shall be our token; love to God and neighbor, love for plea and gift and sign. Merry Christmas!

  1. Robert MacGimsey, Seet Little Jesus Boy (1934).
  2. Sandra M. Schneiders, I.H.M., Buying the Field: Catholic Religious Life in Mission to the World (Paulist Press, 2013).
  3. Richard Rohr, Contemplation in Action (Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006 ).
  4. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu, (1960) (Harper Perennial, 2001).


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